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Gigi’s Playhouse: Alleviating stigma and creating a more positive world

Ally Donofrio, founder of the Cicero area Gigi’s Playhouse, and her daughter Addison were featured in the February 2013 edition of Syracuse Woman Magazine.

Ally Donofrio, founder of the Cicero area Gigi’s Playhouse, and her daughter Addison were featured in the February 2013 edition of Syracuse Woman Magazine. Kelly Kane

— Ally sought support, formed a board and began fundraising. All of the board members took pictures of their children who had Down syndrome and mailed out the pictures to family members explaining their goals of starting a Gigi’s Playhouse in Central New York. They raised about $15,000 right off the bat and continued fundraising. In January of 2012, they held their first board meeting. After more than 10 months of hard work, Gigi’s Playhouse recently opened in Drivers Village in Cicero.

Ally said the playhouse aims to provide support for children with Down syndrome and their families, increase awareness of Down syndrome and help all children reach the important milestones in their lives.

Services provided by the playhouse include one-on-one tutoring, educational programs in literacy, phonics, handwriting, math and skill building, prenatal support and social skill development. All services are free of charge for families.

Programs like “One Million Voices” and “I have a Voice” seek to change “outdated perceptions and replace those images with beautiful, thought-provoking, intelligent images,” according to their website, gigisplayhouse.org/syracuse.

The playhouse brings children with Down syndrome together and unites families who share similar stories.

Ally is excited for the future of Gigi’s Playhouse and sees a great deal of potential for growth, including the addition of a kitchen for cooking classes. She hopes to increase awareness about Down syndrome and create a more positive world for her daughter.

“Just because our kids wear their condition on their face doesn’t make them any different from other kids,” she said. “Give your child time to develop. You just have to realize that it will be at a different pace.”

This story was originally published in the February 2013 edition of Syracuse Woman Magazine, a publication of Eagle Newspapers. For more information on SWM or to subscribe, visit syracusewomanmag.com/swm or facebook.com?SyracuseWomanMagazine. Also, find SWM on Twitter: @SyrWomanMag

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